Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to make it snow:

Let's face it, the solutions are obvious when it comes to making the weather do something: Plan for nice weather, and the weather will do the exact opposite that you've planned for.

Example one: A week and a half ago, Josh and I rode up Elden. The trails were mostly dry, as was the road, and fun was had, even if the temperature did drop and the wind kicked up, which made us freeze on the way back down.

The next day... this happened:
Leaving work.

Bi, rocking some snow-aero rims.

Fast forward a week. The sun is out, the snow is melting rapidly, no ice on the roads, and it's actually around freezing in the morning. 65 degrees for a high today. So I did something to guarantee snow.

I took the studded tires off Bi.
I like fat tires and I cannot lie...

With fat, semi-slicks on, I fully plan on waking up to 2 feet of snow tomorrow.

On the studded tires:

You might remember when I re-studded these tires using sheetmetal screws to replace the worn studs. Overall, the experiment was a success. I made it through another winter with no ice related crashes, and had decent traction for the entire season. I did end up trimming them down before I mounted them on the bike, as they would have been unrideable otherwise. However, they did wear down fast, and while I got two seasons out of the original studs, the screws will need to be replaced before next winter:
Front | Rear

The rear is missing about 10 or so studs, and the front is missing two, most of which I lost in the first couple rides. This didn't have an impact on traction. The tire casing still looks to be in good shape, so I think I'll buy another box of the same screws, and re-do both tires the same way for next winter.

Now to watch for snow.
Mileage: 4.5

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jump Jets and Dumpster Bikes...

The title to this post is best read to the tune of Cake's Stick Shifts and Safety Belts.

It's getting warmer here. The snake I saw on the urban trail said so. The fact that I'm starting to see colors to the east on my way to work also tells me that Spring is on the way. Which means the trails are slowly drying out. The FUTS out to Fort Tuthill is pretty much dry, so I've been riding out that way after work.

One of the perks of that particular trail is that it goes by the Flagstaff International Airport, Hair Care, and Tire Center. This is a perk for two reasons. First is the smell from the Joy Cone plant that always seems to be upwind when I ride by. Second, every now and then, you see something cool at the airport, either landing, taking off, or parked on the tarmac.

Like today, when I was riding in front of the terminal, and heard a very loud roar from the downwind end of the runway.

I saw them flying the holding pattern around the airport, and was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time when the Harriers landed. A minute later, this guy followed them in.

So, I feel pretty good, as I usually do when I see some cool thing on a ride, truck on home, and as I ride by the dumpsters at the back of the apartment complex, I spied some familiar shapes.

Three very weathered bikes parked around the dumpsters.

Curious, I stopped, and checked them out.
Can I keep it? Huh? Huh? Can I? Huh?

It needs a lot of love, but it's that lugged steel bike that I've been on the hunt for, even if it is a little big for me. Let's see what I can make of it.

Mileage: 11.4

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bikepacking: A Shakedown.

Apparently scraping my shoulder off wasn't enough.

So I've been wanting to get into more bikepacking/camping/touring-in-general for quite a while, since before my attempt at the Grand Canyon. What I know now, is I was doing it wrong then. Since then, I've been doing a lot of reading, scheming, plotting, and making. And this past weekend was the trial run for it all.

Josh and I packed up our gear, and headed down to Black Canyon City to camp out from Friday night to Sunday. After weeding out some bad directions, we made it to the trailhead and proceeded to get ready. The camping spot we had been told of was only a mile and a half away, all of 2 miles from I-17, and 3 miles from Black Canyon City. Extra water was in the truck if needed, and we had plenty of bailout options. Josh brought his dog Lucy, and would be hiking to the camp spot. I brought Tri, and would be riding.
Tri, all loaded down. The backpack on the tailgate is also mine.

I've never ridden this trail, let alone at night with a loaded down bike. Adventure!

All went well, and I wound up at the Agua Fria River in short order, where I waited for Josh. He made good time, and before too long, we found a spot to set up our tents.
Josh's on the left, mine on the right.

Testing my little alcohol stove to make breakfast.

After waking up and getting everything situated, we set off to do our different things for the day. I had seen pictures and read about the Black Canyon Trail System, and I've been wanting to ride it ever since I heard of it. It looked like an incredibly fun trail, with stunning views and well routed singletrack. So I set off to ride.

Looking back at camp.


The trail has a very natural look and feel to it. It really is a part of the landscape, not an addition to it.

Bike sculpture at the top of one of the climbs.

Riding amongst the Saguaros. It's a lot different than dodging trees.

Black Canyon City.

I found Josh and Lucy at the bike sculpture on the way back, and had lunch, before heading back down to camp. I had ridden 7 miles out, and while I wasn't tired, I had limited water, and knew I had to either go to the truck for more, or boil water out of the river.

First thing's first, though...
Always wanted to chill with my feet in a stream after a ride.

Josh returned not too long after, and we spent the afternoon boiling water for drinking with our stoves, reading, and napping.

Sunday, we packed up, biked/hiked back to the truck, and headed back up the hill.

Overall, it was a fun and successful trip. I think I packed the perfect balance of gear and food, and had room for more, which I probably would (Should) use for more water. Everything worked, nothing failed, and while I do have a couple niggling changes to make to the setup, they're very minor and by no means necessary. I feel more confident in that bikepacking is entirely doable for me, and that it's fun.

So, now to do a real bike packing trip... once the weather warms up here a bit more.

Mileage: 4.5

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

That's gonna sting a little.

I'll start off by saying I'm all right, it's not that bad.

Foreboding, yes?

So I went into a turn a little fast, and hit a bump that sent me airborne unexpectedly. I landed in the decorative rock ground covering next to the paved trail, the front end washed out, lowsided, and STeve and I hit the asphalt doing about 18 miles an hour.

Normally, I swing pretty far to the inside of the turn to avoid said bump, but there was someone walking there, so instead I held my line. I probably should have scrubbed some speed, too.

Left forearm, knee and shoulder made initial contact with the ground, as far as myself, with the shoulder taking the brunt. Bike hit on the left side brake lever, bar, and pedal. As we slid to a stop, the wheel grabbed, and spun the bars a neat 180 degrees, ramming my frame pump and breaking one of the zip-ties on its mount.

After stopping, and groaning, I looked up at the person I was avoiding in the first place, who had turned, and was staring with a shocked look on her face. What else could I do? I smiled, and said: "Don't mind me, I'm just gonna crash here."

I don't blame her for walking away without a word.

Battle damage, the bike: Scrapes and scuffs on both brake levers and hoods, lightly torn bar tape, front brakes knocked out of adjustment, bars tweaked, one brake lever tweaked. Spedometer sensor acts a little funny, but still works. And a broken zip-tie.

Battle damage, the equipment: Put some holes in my t-shirt, tore the tip of the thumb on my right glove somehow, put some scuffs on the visor of my helmet, (No direct impact damage on the helmet.) and tore a little hole in the side of the tailbag.

Battle damage, the Polarbear:
Plus a scrape on the left forearm, a bump on the knee, and some scrapes on my right thumbnail. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

As if all that weren't enough, STeve's rear tire went flat right when I got home.

All said and done, the damage to the bike is minimal, and I'll be riding it to work tomorrow morning. Damage to me is minimal, all things considered, but I'll be sore for a few days. This is yet another crash where my helmet didn't have an opportunity to act. I've been riding with helmets for 9 years now, and not a single crash I've had has involved a helmet. Doesn't mean I'm going to stop wearing mine, though, just an observation. However, this is the closest my helmet has come to hitting the ground in a crash. The next one may just make me glad I keep it around.
Mileage: 19

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Do your mothers know you're out here doing this?"

One of the better comments I've heard from hikers while on a ride.

So Code and I went for a ride in Sedona today.

Tri, ready to go.

Bikes, in Tuck prison.

The ride started out on the Airport Loop trail, which gives some awesome views of Sedona, where every rock has a name. (Find the one named Bob.)

The trail was very rocky and surrounded with cactus.

We were sick of rocky trail, and dropped off the Airport Mesa in search of some fast flowy singletrack. I see some!

Not a terribly long ride, but a hard one, with lots of rocks and climbing. Definitely a fun one, though.
Mileage: 9.1

Thursday, March 3, 2011


With a lot to do at work, and a lot on my mind, I'm itching for a good long bike ride. Fortunately, the snow from the last round of storms is melting off fairly quickly, and temps this weekend look to be between 50 and 60 degrees. The ride outlook is promising.

But I decided not to wait, and went on a bit of a ride after work. I rode out Route 66 a few miles to the Naval Observatory, and turned around and rode back. I saw a few other folks on bikes who had a similar idea, it seems.

It's melting fast, but there's still a lot on the ground in places.

It was also the first test of a tailbag I put together, in an effort to make it easier to put too much stuff on the bikes of mine that don't have racks. Amazingly, it worked out well, and the design is good. But, I need to do more with it, mainly figuring out how to pack it and get a routine down with it, so it's easy to cinch down and use. I'll have pictures soon, when I remember to snap a few of it. It's pretty slick for being home made.

Tomorrow: Friday Night Bike Night with TC!
Mileage: 15.8